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Safety George Iloka adjusting to a limited role on Vikings roster

September 14, 2018

Six years ago was the last time safety George Iloka had a game like he did for the Vikings in Sundays season-opening win against the 49ers.

Fourteen snaps, all on special teams, was Ilokas workload after the ex-Bengals standout started 79 games in the past five seasons. So, its understandable Iloka couldnt immediately recall the last time he didnt play on defense in the NFL.

Never, Iloka first said Thursday, before recalling his 2012 rookie season in Cincinnati. Oh yeah, rookie thats right, rookie year. I forgot.

After he was dropped by the Bengals in mid-August, the 28-year-old arrived in Minnesota more than three weeks ago on a one-year deal worth the veteran minimum and, he says, with no expectations about a role in the Vikings defense.

The Vikings, dealing with a couple injuries at cornerback vs. the 49ers, turned to a third safety, Jayron Kearse, to fill a void defending the slot. Kearses experience in that particular role led to his playing time, said coach Mike Zimmer.

I mean I really had no expectations, Iloka said. How I got released out of nowhere, wasnt really much of a plan. For me, it was getting with a team where I knew the system.

Hes very familiar with Zimmers defensive tactics, having been drafted by the Bengals while Zimmer was their coordinator. But at this point, Iloka said hes going with the flow until the Vikings decide to play him on defense.

You just kind of roll with what youre doing, Iloka said. If my number is called upon, I know they have confidence in me and I have confidence in myself that Id play at a high level.

Juggling cornerbacks

Cornerback Mackensie Alexander has practiced in full this week for the first time since suffering an ankle injury on Aug. 18. Its likely Alexander returns to his starting role in the slot, even as rookie Mike Hughes flashed in his NFL debut against San Francisco. The Vikings felt good about Alexanders preseason before the injury, according to coordinator George Edwards.

Hes been in the system now for three years and you can tell it, Edwards said. Hes good with the communication and understanding the different techniques and fundamentals that we ask of our nickel or outside at corner.

Could Elflein return at guard?

Center Brett Jones appears in line for another start Sunday in Green Bay as starter Pat Elflein was again limited in Thursdays practice. Elflein is set to return pretty soon, according to Zimmer. However, Zimmer would not commit to Elflein being the starting center when hes healthy enough to play. Elflein was a guard at Ohio State before he moved to center as a senior.

Its way too early, Zimmer said Thursday. Im not going to make any determinations on anything like that yet.

Cook on the move

Running back Dalvin Cook lined up all over the Vikings formations in his return against the 49ers, which will continue to be a point of emphasis after he caught six balls for 55 receiving yards, according to offensive coordinator John DeFilippo.

We want him to get the football in a bunch of different spots, DeFilippo said. You saw in the first play of the game, we hopped him over and basically threw a pass and really tossed him the football. It got us nine yards.

Quick hits

Defensive end Everson Griffen was added to the injury report Thursday with a toe injury. He was limited in practice. Cornerbacks Trae Waynes (knee) and Alexander (ankle) were full participants.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (knee) did not practice Thursday. Receiver Davante Adams (shoulder) returned and was limited.

The Vikings waived rookie defensive back Tray Matthews off injured reserve with an injury settlement. He is now a free agent.

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